Zendikar Rising Standard Set Review with Ali Aintrazi
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Forging the Sands of Amonkhet


We’re back with another Amonkhet article! Unlike last time however, I have more things than just cards I’m excited about. I’ve been testing some cards and decks and today I’d like to go over two of my favorite decks that also happen to be doing well. I tried to build decks that could fight Mardu and Four-Color Copycat if they are still legal after the Banned and Restricted update; and, on the off chance something gets banned (please god of Amonkhet), then these decks should be even better positioned. We will go over a Bant Planeswalker deck that gets most of its control and card advantage out of its Planeswalkers and a Simic deck that abuses ramp, card draw, and bounce while digging for Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Again, both are pretty exciting decks so strap in folks!

First up we have . . . 

This is where I’m at with the deck. I haven’t had too much time to test, no one has really since the set has only been out for a very short time, but I really like where this list is going. I got the inspiration to try this deck because of the card, Haze of Pollen. Playing traditional Fog was a bit of a liability. You don’t really want too many since they’re dead draws against control and they aren’t great if you don’t have a Planeswalker out. Fogging for a turn without being able to gain card and board advantage with your Planeswalkers isn’t where you want to be. Thankfully Haze of Pollen has cycle! This is huge for spells like this that can be narrow. When it’s good, it’s going to very good because you’ll be able to basically Time Walk and get use out of your Planeswalkers again. When it’s bad, then you just cycle it and trade it in for something else! This is simple but really what the archetype wants.

The Oaths

Oath of Nissa
Oath of Gideon
Oath of Jace

Oath of Nissa insures that you hit your land drops early while finding you a Planeswalker mid to late game. It also helps you cast your Planeswalkers with any color of mana. Oath of Gideon is a wonderful way to protect your Planeswalkers by making two 1/1 creatures. Having your ‘walkers enter with an additional counter is another powerful form of protection and gets them closer to their ultimates. Oath of Gideon curves very well into Tamiyo, Field Researcher, allowing you to draw two cards right away. It has been surprisingly good in testing. Oath of Jace is pretty slow, but I’ve found it to range from “okay” to “HOLY CRAP THIS IS INSANE!!” Scrying every turn for two or more turns is very good. When that starts happening, the game quickly sprawls out of control in your favor.

Haze of Pollen, Heart of Kiran, and Fumigate

Haze of Pollen
Heart of Kiran

We’ve talked about Haze of Pollen, but Heart of Kiran is another MVP. It does a fantastic job at protecting our Planeswalkers since we can crew it with loyalty, while also putting pressure on our opponent. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar can be a threat to the deck, and Heart of Kiran does an excellent job of taking him out. If Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is banned, it’s okay. I think it will be better for the deck. You’ll just play Gideon of the Trials instead! When you are fogging on crucial turns and when your Heart of Kiran is protecting your Planeswalkers, your opponent feels obligated to play more creature or risk dying to a Planeswalker ult or just getting overwhelmed by your Planeswalkers. So, they will usually play out more creatures. This is where Fumigate is huge. You’ll usually just win on the spot when you’re able to force your opponent to over commit and then wipe the battlefield. These three cards, Haze of Pollen, Heart of Kiran, and Fumigate, are all fantastic ways to protect your Planeswalkers.

The Planeswalkers

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Dovin Baan
Tamiyo, Field Researcher

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar: This is the best Planeswalker in the deck, I don’t I have to explain why. Protecting your other Planeswalkers and killing your opponent is good I hear.

Dovin Baan: In a walker deck, you really want to have multiple walkers out at a time so you can milk the advantage out of them. Dovin Baan is no exception to this rule. He also protects you with his plus ability while gaining you life and drawing you cards over the course of the match.

Tamiyo, Field Researcher: Curving into this from Oath of Gideon is powerful. Upticking on Heart of Kiran, Gideon tokens, Lumbering Falls, or just Gideon himself is also good. Even if you have no creatures of your own to target, you can just target your opponent’s creatures. This will make your opponent think twice before attacking you. Tamiyo also does a good job of locking down powerful non-land permanents like opposing Heart of Kirans or Gideons.

Nissa, Steward of Elements
Ajani Unyielding

Nissa, Steward of Elements: A Planeswalker that scales is nothing we’ve seen before. Nissa is great early and a fantastic finisher late in the game. You’ll usually keep both on top if you plan to use her zero ability to put a land onto the battlefield the following turn. Controlling your draws while ramping up every other turn adds up quickly. Later in the game you can just Scry all your lands to the bottom to insure you hit action.

Ajani Unyielding: Ajani can find you more Planeswalkers or defend you and your Planeswalkers from a huge threat. If you ever get to ultimate him, it becomes a domino effect where all your other ‘walkers start ulting too.

Jace, Unraveler of Secrets
Sorin, Grim Nemesis

Jace, Unraveler of Secrets: A fine value card that can also protect you by bouncing a creature. With Oath of Gideon, you can tick up once and threaten his ultimate the following turn. Scary and powerful stuff!

Sorin, Grim Nemesis: Sorin can be a little tough to cast, but as a singleton that costs 6 mana, and with four Oath of Nissas, I haven’t had much of a problem doing it. He’s great at killing opposing Planeswalkers while drawing your cards and killing your opponent at the same time.

The deck has been performing well. It’s a very good start for the shell and you can go many directions. You can play Red for Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Nahiri, the Harbinger, and even Radiant Flames if you want. It’s also a blast to play. Highly recommended.

Next up Simic!

Commit // Memory
Another deck inspired by Haze of Pollen. I originally started this deck with Nissa, Steward of Elements and Bounty of the Luxa. They were too slow against Mardu and Saheeli. It was hard to milk the value out of Bounty of the Luxa when you’re getting attacked for nine damage a turn or a deck is threatening to combo kill you. Thankfully, Haze of Pollen and Commencement of Festivities deal with infinite cats while buying you time against Mardu to find your Ulamogs or Crush of Tentacles.

The deck is simple. You really want a 2-drop ramp creatures and then you just ramp up as quickly as possible while slowing down your opponents with Fogs, Commit // Memory, Censor, and Crush of Tentacles. Commit // Memory is amazing in this deck, especially if you’ve already resolved a couple of Nissa's Renewals. It makes your seven cards much more powerful than your opponent’s when most of your lands are on the battlefield. This deck is reminiscent of bg Seasons Past. Instead of Seasons Past, we have Commit // Memory to refill our hand and Pull from Tomorrow instead of Dark Petition.

You’ll often end up with no cards in your hand but can easily draw two, three, four, or even five cards when you untap thanks to things like Hedron Archive, Memory, Pull from Tomorrow, Blighted Cataract, or even Zendikar Resurgent since this makes your creatures replace themselves.

You’ll be on the edge of your set when you’re playing this deck and you’ll kill your opponent’s out of nowhere. Commit // Memory is an amazing card here, especially since it kind of turns you into a Turbofog deck that can close out the game on the back of Ulamog. Keep in mind Commit can target spells too, not just permanents. Committing things like Scrapheap Scrounger, Gideons, or a counterspell is great. It kind of acts like a Blue Hero's Downfall but it can also hit spells on the stack and refill your hand later in the game. I’ve tested this deck against the cycle control decks that play things like Drake Haven and this deck absolutely crushes those decks.

These are the two decks I’ve been testing and I’ve enjoyed so far. I’m going to wait until Monday to see if anything is banned before brewing too much more. However, next week make sure to check out my set review article as I review every card from Amonkhet for constructed playability. You’ll get a new article every day so don’t miss out!

If you have any questions on either of these lists or even cards you excited to try out, make sure you leave your comments below. I love spoiler season and new decks! BREWS GALORE!

As always, thank you for reading.

Much love,

Ali Aintrazi

@Alieldrazi on Twitter

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